First year GMD student, Jack Rice, reports back from The Designers Republic talk given by Ian Anderson earlier this term at LCC.

“‘Accidental Pioneers’, that’s how Course Leader Craig Burston introduced The Designers Republic before Ian Anderson started speaking.

Coming from more of a philosophical and musical background than a design one, Ian Anderson, along with Nick Phillips, started “tDR™” in 1986. Their music background led them to design vinyl covers and to build ‘graphic universes’ for the groups. Their philosophical approach was also rarely seen in the design world. Not having formal design training – “I’m self taught” – meant they didn’t know the do’s and don’ts that designers lived and worked by, allowing them to create visually striking work that broke through the noise of mainstream graphic art.

This alone is impressive. There’s also something rather romantic about designing, as Ian referred to it, “BC” (or Before Computers). I had heard of designers especially in the early 90’s that had a rebellious attitude to the world but nearly all of them faded within ten years or so, but what amazed me about tDR was how they continue to stay so relevant, in demand and unique to the present day. I think this is largely because tDR stuck to what they believed in – both artistically and in life. As Ian said in the talk: “It’s better to fail on your own terms than win on someone else’s.”

The Designers Republic realised they had to learn core graphic skills in order to progress and improve but they did it on their own terms. They stayed in Sheffield, deciding not to move to London. They didn’t shy away from politics which is prominent throughout their history, ‘Buy Work Consume Die’.

It was a great privilege to have the opportunity to learn and ask questions of such a high-profile designer. Ian’s story telling was full of tested knowledge and quick little funny remarks. Underlying this was something rather profound and inspiring, a message of just not giving a shit what anyone thinks and staying true to what you believe in. I can’t wait for the next one.”
Jack Rice, GMD Year One.